California fire danger spikes with most powerful winds of the season

2018 Woolsey fire
Strong Santa Ana winds fueled the 2018 Woolsey fire, as seen from the beach in Malibu.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Fire weather is returning to California this week, prompting warnings and preparation.

October traditionally brings dangerous fire conditions, with winds and hot temperatures. Officials said Northern California — which has been devastated with two straight years of destructive fires — could see the strongest winds of the season, prompting the state’s largest utility on Monday to announce it is considering a public safety power shut-off for 29 counties.

On Tuesday, Southern California Edison announced it too was considering preventive power outages to more than 100,000 customers in an effort to avoid the ignition of wildfires by electrical equipment.

Here is the what to expect this week:

Southern California fire danger


Santa Ana winds, possibly strong, are expected to develop in the mountains before sunrise Thursday. The winds are expected to be widespread and peak Thursday before weakening slightly Friday and then diminishing Saturday.

The region could see a rapid onset of Santa Anas in the valleys and along the coasts, with northeast winds of 20 to 30 mph and gusts up to 55 mph; in the foothills and mountains, winds of 25 to 40 mph with gusts of up to 70 mph are expected.

Temperatures could reach into the 80s, and the humidity is expected to fall rapidly by Thursday afternoon, which means grasses and brush will be dry and quicker to burn.

Southern California Edison says it is considering power cuts, in advance of the winds, to more than 106,000 customers in parts of eight counties.

The largest numbers of potentially affected utility customers are in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Also under consideration are areas in Ventura County and portions of Kern, Tulare, Inyo and Mono counties.


Northern California fire danger

Windy conditions are expected to begin Tuesday night and continue for days in the northern portion of the state.

The National Weather Service was forecasting “the strongest wind event of the season so far. Now is the time to prepare.”

Citing the potential for extremely dry air and steady winds of up to 30 mph, with gusts that experts said could be twice as strong, Pacific Gas & Electric announced it was considering a public safety power shut-off for 29 counties from Wednesday morning to Thursday afternoon.